I woke up this morning still feeling tired. I grabbed my phone and started flipping through Facebook, not because I wanted to read it, more because I was hoping the light and pictures would help wake me up. I heard my daughter, already awake, calling for me. I had missed any chance for solitude this morning. On to changing a wet pull-up, putting dishes away and dodging houseflies (we have a bit of an infestation unfortunately) as I try to get something on the table for breakfast. Zenie looks up at me, “Mama, what are we going to do today?” And I know, because today is Monday, and every Monday we do the same things. The weeks blur together, I sip my tea, wishing I hadn’t given up coffee, and I wonder if we are accomplishing anything in this life.
For those of you following along with our reading group, we are spending the next four weeks on St. Benedict’s Rule. It is nothing more than a set of standards that Benedict laid out for monks to live by 1,500 years ago. It may sound like an odd choice, most of us are not considering monastic orders. But, even so, this book is a challenge to us, at least to me. Reading it begs the question, Is there a rule that I live by? Is there anyone I am submitted to? What are my values and am I really living by them? Do I really think waking up and tuning into Facebook first thing in the morning is good for my soul? Then why am I doing it?
And really there is a bigger question that Benedict raises. His Rule is clearly for monks. He goes into how monks should eat and sleep, what they should wear and how much wine they can drink. This book is for a people who know their vocation, their calling is clear. And while Benedict’s instructions, like to, “avoid talk leading to laughter,” are irrelevant to me ( I plan on laughing as much as I can and could use some more of it these days), what is essential is that I determine what I am called to. What is the life God has for me and am I living it? Before I can consider a rule of life I need to face the first challenge that Benedict’s book offers. What is my vocation?
When I first hear the word vocation, I think of high school. I was in college-prep classes and others were in the vocational program, learning cosmetology or auto-body repair, preparing for a career. But vocation isn’t synonymous with career. In fact, historically vocations, as the church understood them were, married life (pursing your faith within the context of marriage), single life (remaining intentionally single to pursue your faith), religious life (becoming a monk or nun) or ordained life (becoming a priest). Nowadays most of us understand this word more broadly to mean, calling. It may be wrapped up with a career, but it isn’t only a career. God has a unique plan for each of us, there is a best path that we can take, and though it can be a challenge to figure this path out, God doesn’t keep it hidden from us. He wants us to find it. Finding our vocation let’s us become most completely ourselves, we live into who we were created to be in the fullest of ways.
I always thought I would be of best service to God as a stay at home mom of a big family, four or five kids at least ( I usually included in that plan a sweet house in the country with lots of cute baby animals). And while I am beyond grateful for the one beautiful daughter God has given us, as each month passes without another pregnancy, it seems clear that my idea isn’t God’s. My husband’s job ended unexpectedly few months ago, we ended up moving on short notice and we found ourselves in a new community, a great community, but a place where we had no roots, doing work that we had never expected, feeling like all of our gifts and talents were not being used. All of our hopes and dreams are swimming around in front of us doing nothing close to materializing. We are left scratching our heads wondering, what is the purpose? What are we doing here?
I know a little about this process of discernment. Mostly because it is ongoing and I’ve wrestled with it before. There isn’t a final destination after all, except heaven and we are dead when we get there. Instead it is a constant pursuit of God and His best for me. I know it requires a willingness to let go of my own dreams. Though it seems impossible to forget my hopes of a family that fills up both sides of the dinner table, there is a choice to make. I can either pursue my dreams my own way, and become bitter when I don’t get what I want. Or I can trust that God has a given me dreams and the He will fulfill them in His way, and trust that His way is better.
Most of all right now I need to accept that this is where God has me. That I am a mother of one beautiful daughter, that I have a devoted husband and that we live in a really crummy rent house and are barely making ends meet. God knows it. My answer today to what is my vocation is answered, at least for today. It is to do the laundry and cook breakfast as if I was doing it for Jesus and it is to pray about the future and to wait. For each of us our days consist of real things, people, places, foods and houses. We can use these things to draw us and those around us nearer to God, or we can grumble and complain that it isn’t all we hoped it would be.
There is a calling for each of us. For many it will come after much soul searching and wise counsel. And I do pray that God would lead our family on to something exciting and valuable, something that really made use of our gifts (and that He would do it soon, our lease is up in 2 months). But in looking out to the future I can’t forget what is in front of me today. A beautiful girl with big brown eyes asking me what we are going to do today.
What is God calling you to, today or in the future? How can you tell? I’d love to hear your stories.